Inerrancy & the Bible’s View of “Itself.”


Perhaps the most basic claim made by the inerrantist is that the doctrine of inerrancy is derived directly from the teachings of the Bible itself. We see this best captured by article 15 of the CSBI which states that “the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.”

There are two things to be said in response to this claim. First, it is simply not the case that “the Bible” ever makes claims about “itself,” at least in an exhaustive sense. For instance, it is true that some of the Psalms make claims about the perfection of the law of Moses. The author of 2 Timothy makes a claim about the usefulness of the scriptures and their status as “God-breathed,” but he does not make any such claims about the New Testament texts, nor does he provide a list of the books he considers to enjoy canonical attest.

The author of 2 Peter also ascribes scriptural status to Paul’s letters, but which of Paul’s letters he is referring to is not known to us. Neither does the author tell us anything about his view of the other books that are now in the New Testament. Marcion accepted Paul’s letters but not other New Testament books. As late as the sixteenth, Martin Luther approved of Paul’s letters, but not James, Jude, or Revelation. Furthermore, 2 Peter makes not claim about its own status as scripture, and he tells us nothing about whether he considers scripture to be inerrant. He considered them to be inspired (2 Peter 1:19). However, we can assume that he considered them to be authoritative, but what “authoritative” meant for him is open to debate, and thus any theory put forward would remain conjecture. Scholar Thom Stark explains:

“The Bible does not make claims about “itself.” The inerrantist talks about the Bible as if it were some self-aware being, like an artificial intelligence that, once assembled, achieves a sort of quasi-consciousness” (1).


1. Stark, T. 2011. The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals when it Gets God Wrong (and why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It). p. 47.

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